Leadership

Swedish Video Game Group Considers Sexism Ratings

In the midst of a long-running controversy regarding gender politics in video games, a leading Swedish trade group for the industry is working to show that it takes sexism concerns seriously.

In the midst of a long-running controversy regarding gender politics in video games, a leading Swedish trade group is working to show that it takes sexism concerns seriously.

The Swedish video games trade group Dataspelsbranchen apparently isn’t afraid of getting out in front on a controversial issue.

At a time when much of the online world is caught up in a long-running debate about sexism in video games—exemplified by Gamergate, though many advocates of that movement say their complaints involve journalistic ethics, not gender issues—the group is looking into offering ratings on games based on how well they represent gender equality. More details:

About the plan: With some funding help from the Swedish government agency Vinnova, Dataspelsbranchen will research the issue of sexism and gender stereotypes in video games based on the Bechdel test. That three-pronged test for gender bias in fictional works is commonly used to evaluate movies; it asks whether the work depicts at least two women talking to one another about a subject other than men. Works of fiction often fail the test, despite the fairly simple requirement to pass. (“Birdman” and “Amazing Spider-Man 2” are among recent films that flunked.) Dataspelsbranchen is planning on working with Swedish game developers to analyze gender issues and how female characters are portrayed. The group says possible outcomes include creating a certification system for games that meet a certain standard or a ratings system for all games  similar to the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s system for violence and sexuality in games.

The project’s goals: Speaking to Swedish newspaper The Local, Dataspelsbranchen project manager Anton Albiin noted that the strategy is meant to help games better reflect society as a whole. “Of course games can be about fantasy, but they can be so much more than this,” Albiin said. “They can also be a form of cultural expression, reflecting society or the society we are hoping for. Games can help us to create more diverse workplaces and can even change the way we think about things.” No matter what shows up on the screen, Sweden’s $935 million gaming industry suffers from a gender-equity problem of a different kind: Just 16 percent of all employees in the industry are women, according to Dataspelsbranchen.

“I do not know of any other project in the world asking this question, and of course we want Sweden to be a beacon in this area,” Albiin added.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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